Vern's Verbal Vibe

Singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and purveyor of folk 'n' roll: spirit-filled sad songs made better.

October 01, 2011

The Case Against Evil

With a weighty title like that, you might well expect a lofty philosophical discourse, cogently structured and flawlessly argued. If so, sorry to disappoint. I do, however, offer humble anecdotal evidence from the world of baseball.

Somewhat miraculously, the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays find themselves in the playoffs after trailing the Red Sox by 9 games as late as September 3. (Boston's spectacular collapse is in itself legendary, but I'll leave that for the denizens of Red Sox Nation to dissect. You know they will.)

Okay, so a team that's done rather well for itself in recent years makes the playoffs again. So what? Well, the Rays began life in 1998 as the Devil Rays, which is where the evil comes in. A quick glance at the Devil Rays' year-by-year record paints a clear picture:
  • 1998: 63-99, last place, AL East
  • 1999: 69-93, last place, AL East
  • 2000: 69-92, last place, AL East
  • 2001: 62-100, last place, AL East
  • 2002: 55-106, last place, AL East
  • 2003: 63-99, last place, AL East
  • 2004: 70-91, 4th place, AL East
  • 2005: 67-95, last place, AL East
  • 2006: 61-101, last place, AL East
  • 2007: 66-96, last place, AL East
In and of itself, compelling evidence that evil doesn't pay, no? That's nine last-place finishes in ten seasons. But there's more.

In late 2007, ownership revamped the team's logo and uniform and, most crucially, ditched the "Devil." In owner Stuart Sternberg's words, the rechristened Rays would be "a beacon that radiates throughout Tampa Bay and across the entire state of Florida." Lovely sentiments, but could they actually win? Let's have a look:
  • 2008: 97-65, 1st place, AL East; AL Champions
  • 2009: 84-78, 3rd place, AL East
  • 2010: 96-66, 1st place, AL East
  • 2011: 91-71, 2nd place, AL East; AL Wild Card team
That's four straight winning seasons and playoff appearances in three of those four years, and this from a team that (a) plays in toughest division in baseball; and (b) has a history of futility about as grim as it gets. So, kids, take good care when naming your sports teams. As the luminous Tampa Bay Rays have shown, good must trump evil, at least in the world of baseball.

(How, then, to account for The Evil Empire and their 27 World Series championships? Or the 1919 Black Sox? Or Roger Clemens? Ah, other posts for other days.)

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